The chief purpose of note-taking is to make a record of one's understanding of a particular area of knowledge, and this may occur, for example, when one is present at a lecture or reading a book. But there is no single correct method of taking notes. As with many learning situations the method adopted needs to be suited both to the student and to the particular learning context. For example, in a lecture the kind of note-taking needs to be adapted to the subject of the lecture and the style of the lecturer. Thus, in some situations very detailed notes may be needed, while in others only key points may be appropriate.
In your approach to note-taking tasks consider the following:
- The notes will be private to you, and so you are free to organise them in the way which best suits you. You might, for example, choose to use your own abbreviations and to employ colour coding to clarify points and make the notes more visually pleasing.
- It is important to be clear about the purpose of the notes and what you are intending to use them for: this will help to dictate how you should record them.
- In general, for lecture notes the aim is not to come away with a word-for-word record of everything that was said, but rather to capture the salient points made.
- Some people like to use mind-mapping as a method of note-taking in lectures. An alternative technique is to use a single mind map as a summary linking device for a whole course. After each lecture you augment the map using the notes you have just taken; immediately before the next lecture you briefly use the map as a revision aid and to bring you quickly into the appropriate mind set.
Note-taking in any learning situation will encourage you to be actively and purposefully involved. However, it is important that you adopt a note-taking method which will best suit your own future needs. You should also bear in mind that during a lecture your primary purpose in being there is to listen and to think, rather than to produce a verbatim record of the proceedings. As far as possible, you should aim to be a relaxed but alert note-taker, with the note-taking activity being something which you are able to derive pleasure from.
For further information about note-taking see:
- Note-Taking - the Cornell System (Virginia Tech)
Note-Taking and In-class skills (Virginia Tech)